Publisher: Mischief Corner Books, LLC; First edition (November 27, 2014)
Amazon Kindle: Chestnuts Roasting Anthology
Christmas means different things to everyone, but most often it’s all about pulling loved ones close and brightening the gloom. The fire’s crackling. The snow is piling up outside, even if it's only in your dreams. Time to snuggle up with some cocoa and some stories carefully crafted by the Mischief Corner Crew to warm hearts and cockles.
Wreath of Fire: Smokey Mountains Bears 2 - Toni Griffin
Michael's trying to start a new life away from his abusive father, but he's drifting and not sure what he wants. When he accidentally starts a kitchen fire, the hot new fireman who comes to the rescue is not only another bear shifter. He's Michael's mate. Michael desperately needs to get his act together and figure out what he wants if he has any hope of claiming the bear fated to be his.
A Christmas Cactus for the General - Angel Martinez
Exiled to Earth for perhaps the worst failure in Irasolan history, General Teer must assimilate or die. Earth is too warm, too wet, too foreign, but he does the best he can even though human males are loud, childish louts whom he can't imitate successfully. When a grieving seaplane pilot strikes up a strange and uneasy friendship with him, he finds he may have been too quick to judge human males. They are strange to look at, but perhaps not as unbearable as he thought.
Holly Jolly - Silvia Violet
I’m not gay. I just notice men sometimes. Everybody does, right? I notice Dane a lot, like every time I’m near him, but just because I think he’s an attractive man that doesn’t mean I like him, does it?
I’m also not a fan of Christmas. Too many years “celebrating” with my Bible-thumping family ruined the holiday for me. So what if I envy all these cheerful souls dashing about with smiles on their faces? I don’t have to like Christmas, do I? If anyone could get me in the Christmas spirit, it would be Dane with his easy, relaxed manner and his gorgeous smile. If that were going to happen, though, I’d have to find the courage to talk to him and to admit that maybe I don’t know myself all that well after all.
Snow on Spirit Bridge - Freddy MacKay
Alone in Japan, Finni is struggling against the constant distrust, avoidance, and xenophobia he experiences every day. He misses home. He misses his family. Nightmares come all too frequently because of the stress, and well, Christmas is just not Christmas in Japan. Not how he understands it.
Distressed by how miserable Finni is, his roommate, Mamoru, offers to be Finni's family for Christmas. Little does he know how much one agreement would change everything between them, because both of them kept secrets neither ever dreamed were true.
From “A Christmas Cactus for the General” by Angel Martinez
Teer kept still, watching the man drive off. The men on this world amazed him, such clumsy, uncontrolled louts, like overgrown children. If that had been one of his own men back home, Mr. Bruce would have been on the floor with a boot against his windpipe. But Teer couldn’t do such things here. It was, from what he understood, illegal.
“A pansy seems an honorable flower. Such strong colors,” he said as Molly returned to him. “But I’m fairly certain that wasn’t a compliment.”
“No, it wasn’t.” Molly pursed her lips, an expression Teer knew by now meant she was unhappy. “I’m sorry about that. I think he goes to visit someone in the cemetery every Friday. But it’s no excuse to act like a son of a bitch.”
Sometimes it still struck Teer as odd, working for a female, but Molly was a sensible, practical person, more like a male Irasolan than most of the men on this strange, wet planet.
“When you say he visits someone at the cemetery, is this a way of saying he goes to honor someone who has died?”
Molly gave him an odd look, then shook her head. “I’m sorry. Your English is so good, I forget you get tripped up by expressions sometimes. Yeah. I’m pretty sure he lost someone close to him.”
The single hyacinth every week seemed extravagant tribute, but Teer had to tamp down hard on his instincts every time he filled a customer’s order. Flowers to these people were disposable, things of temporary beauty that could be callously cut from their parent plants. A single plant given to the honored dead back home would have been a sign of such overarching grief that the survivor’s family would have feared an imminent suicide attempt.
But for this man, the tribute paid is every week. His wounds are deep, but not fatal. Not that I have any reason to be curious or even vaguely interested. Rude, uncouth…what is the word? Jerk.
“Ah. Never fear, Molly. It’s difficult to be offended by words that don’t mean much to me.” He offered her a smile, since smiles were often meant as reassurance here. “You said you had lights to put up today? For the upcoming holidays?”
“Right! The Christmas lights!” Molly scurried to the back and returned with two boxes, full of small glass bulbs attached to wires. “I guess you don’t do Christmas either, huh?”
“My…family never celebrated Christmas, no.”
“Oh, right. Buddhist or something I bet.”
“Something of that sort,” Teer murmured as he began to pull one of the hopelessly tangled strands from the first box. Apparently, Christmas had something to do with testing spatial acuity and patience. Odd holiday.
From “Holly Jolly” by Silvia Violet
Dane caught my eye and raised a brow, clearly asking me if he should serve Shelley another drink. I shook my head and wrapped my arm around her shoulders. “You’ve had enough. Let me take you home.”
She pulled away and grinned at Dane. “You’re not going to listen to him, are you? He’s way too much of a killjoy. It’s sad really.”
My face heated. “Shelley, please. Let’s just go.”
“Are you really going to refuse me?” she asked Dane.
“I think you’d do best to listen to your friend.”
She got a wicked look on her face and I braced myself. Even sober she was good at embarrassing me. “Shelley.” I used my best I’m-warning-you tone.
She leaned over the bar. “If you won’t give me tequila, how about giving me your number?” She dug around in her massive purse and finally produced her phone. “What time is it anyway? Surely you need a break, honey. You wanna take a break with me?”
Dane smiled kindly, but I could see he was going to let her down. “That is a lovely offer, but actually—” He looked at me and winked. “—he’s more my type.”
I sucked in my breath and stared, mouth hanging open. I must have looked like an idiot, but his eyes sparkled with heat. My cock started to harden. What the fuck was going on with me?
Shelley punched my arm. “Why don’t you go for it, then? Might loosen you up.”
I stared at her like she’d grown another head.
She laughed loudly, attracting more attention. “I’d be happy to watch.”
What the fuck? “Shelley, you really need to let me take you home.”
She shook her head. “No way. If the shits in management are going to screw me, at least I can take them for all the free tequila I can get.”
“Don’t ruin your career over a couple of asinine comments.”
Dane nodded. “He’s right. Let him take you home or at least somewhere else. You don’t want to do this at work.”
Her eyes filled with tears. “It’s so fucking unfair.”
Dane patted her arm. “I’m sure it is, but screwing yourself won’t make it any better.”
“You’re positive you don’t want to screw me instead?” she asked.
I couldn’t help being embarrassed for her, but the truth was, she was that blunt sober.
“Sorry, darling, and no, I won’t do him in front of you either.”
I choked on the swallow of soda I’d just taken. “Look, I—”
Dane shook his head. “Get her out of here. We can talk later.”
I helped Shelley get to her feet and kept my arm around her so she wouldn’t fall.
“Tom.” It was Dane calling me. I hadn’t realized he knew my name. I turned around, and he handed me a folded napkin. “Later,” he mouthed.
When I had Shelley tucked into the passenger seat of my car, I pulled the napkin out of my pocket and looked at it as I walked toward the driver’s side. His number was scrawled on it with the message “call me.” Oh my God, he actually did want to go out with me. Okay, more realistically, he probably wanted to sleep with me. But I’m not…
Oh really? So why did your cock get hard when he looked at you?
From Wreath of Fire by Toni Griffin
“Come on, let’s get out of the way while these nice firemen finish up,” Patricia said.
Michael had completely forgotten all about the other men. He remembered one of them coming over and leading him outside while others battled the blaze, but Michael had been too distraught to pay too much attention to them. He thought the man’s name might have been Martin or something similar. He couldn’t remember. Michael looked away from Patricia at the men on the lawn stretching out a hose and packing it away. His gaze was caught immediately in the intense blue eyes of one of the firefighters he had yet to meet.
His heartbeat increased as Michael stood there, unable to look away from the man, who stood no more than a half a dozen feet in front of him. The man wasn’t what most people would have considered gorgeous. Yes, he was tall, probably close to half a foot taller than Michael. He obviously had muscles. Doing the job he did Michael doubted there was an ounce of fat on the man anywhere, and the bulky bright yellow protective outfit made him look even larger than he was.
His dark brown hair was cut short, shaved close on the sides with only the barest hint of length on the top. His nose was large, his eyebrows thick and bushy, but the blue of his eyes shone through. The man’s lips were surrounded by a beard that followed the contours of his face. This man was obviously well groomed, the beard was trimmed close and neatly, and Michael wanted to feel it against his naked skin.
His body was going haywire and Michael didn’t know why. It wasn’t until he took a deep breath that it finally clicked. The man in front of him wasn’t human, he was a shifter, and he smelled very much like he might be Michael’s mate.
“Michael? Is everything all right?” Patricia asked him. Michael hadn’t even realized he’d made the small whimpering noise until she asked.
Michael shook his head. This could not be happening. No way could he meet his mate now, when he’d just proven to everyone what a complete and total fuckup he was. He couldn’t deal with this right now. He turned to Patricia. “I’m sorry,” he whispered again. Michael would be saying that for the rest of his life.
He turned and darted for the house. Michael wasn’t thinking, he just knew he had to get away from everything and the only way he knew how was to shift. He raced through the house, the scent of the fire strong and cloying as soon as he opened the front door. He made it to the back door and ran outside and across the back lawn. Michael ignored the calls from Patricia and a deep sexy voice he could only assume was the man he thought might be his mate. He could hear their heavy steps behind him, but he wasn’t stopping. He vaulted over the back fence, not bothering to waste time on the locked gate, and ran into the forest.
Thankful for his shifter side, Michael ran barefoot through the trees. The temperature had to be close to freezing. A bitter wind blew through the forest, causing Michael to shiver despite his higher than average body temperature.
When he was certain he was out of sight, Michael stopped and took a moment. His heart pounded furiously in his chest. Why did the world have to be so cruel? Things were finally starting to look up: he was going to go back to school and get his GED, and then he could decide what he wanted to do with his life. Instead, he thought it would be a great idea to try and burn down the house of the only people who had been kind to him in his life, proving to the one person he’d wanted since forever that he was a complete loser.
Michael stripped quickly. It was too cold to stay still for too long. He thought about his bear, concentrated, and felt the shift start to take over him. Within moments, he was standing on all fours, the thick black coat of his fur keeping him warm from the icy winds. Michael lifted his head and roared out all his frustration, then took off into the woods.
For once, he wanted to be alone.
From Snow on Spirit Bridge by Freddy MacKay
There should be snow. Lots of it. Moreover, it should be below freezing with clouds, not this sunny and fifties crap. People should be huddled together and hurrying to get inside. It didn’t feel like Christmas otherwise.
With a sigh, Finni glanced around the train platform.
If he’d been home in Chicago, snow would blanket the streets and salt would crunch under his feet. Shop windows with mannequins would line the Magnificent Mile with Christmas winter scenes. The tree would be up at his parents’, decorated with bright lights and homemade ornaments he and his siblings made over the years. One or two presents would lie under the tree as a teaser for the younger cousins. Warm drinks would be waiting for him as he stepped through the door and brushed the snow off his coat. His family would smile at him and voices would call out to him.
If he’d been home in Chicago.
Tokyo wasn’t home.
A big, bustling city, yes, but not home.
As people hurried from one shop to the next, got on and off the trains, and ran about in their jackets and sweaters, Tokyo couldn’t have been farther from home. Yes, decorations were up at cake shops and at the department stores, but they weren’t the same. The plastic Christmas trees seemed more likely to come alive and hunt people down than give off a relaxing pine scent. They didn’t give off the same cozy family feeling Finni connected with. Everything was geared toward couples.
Since when was Christmas about couples?
A pang of loneliness ate at Finni’s gut. All he wanted was his parents, his brothers and sisters, and his cousins, aunts, uncles, and some snow. He needed to see everyone was happy and okay. Was that too much to ask for?
A chilled wind blasted Finni, and he looked up, expecting the train, but nothing rattled down the tracks. Other people grabbed their coats and hunched. Some young girls squealed and huddled closer to each other. Finally, a shiver wracked Finni, clueing him in to the unusual temperature drop.
Temperatures had plummeted from the fifties to almost thirty since he’d arrived on the platform, not normal weather. In only a T-shirt, even Finni felt the cold.
Finni sighed, closed his eyes, and concentrated on sunshine and warm thoughts. He almost laughed under the circumstances. The people would think he was odd and leave an even bigger circle around him. One more oddity to make Finni miss home even more.
The swoosh and rattle of a train making its way down the tracks caused Finni to open his eyes, watching expectantly with the others.
About damn time. Usually the trains didn’t run late unless something untoward happened. Like a jumper, which occurred more often than Finni comprehended. He risked a glance around and saw the people more relaxed, the extreme temperature flux now gone, just an oddity to discuss among themselves.
The train hissed to a stop, the doors popped open, and everyone hurried on, ready to leave the unusual drop in temperature behind them. While the men and women bumped into each other, the girls giggling as they passed Finni, he still got a wide berth as he ducked through. The crowd moved and swayed in a loose circle around him until Finni got to his spot by the doors and faced the window.
Once again, the seat next to him remained empty, no one sitting down even though the train was packed. Not every foreigner got quite the same treatment he did, but his size—not to mention the blond hair and blue eyes—made people’s reaction to him more extreme. Finni ignored the slight, though it stung more than it had the past couple of months. He’d learned not to notice when people stared or jumped in surprised when they looked up at him or moved away as soon as they noticed him after they sat down. Better to stay quiet and pretend nothing happened than draw attention to the behavior. It only made things worse.
Except today, the unfounded fears of the people he’d rode the train with since his move mid-October dug into him like claws. He sighed, leaned against the windows, and closed his eyes, exhausted.
Sleep wasn’t easy lately. Nightmares waited for him, ones that made it harder to be away from his family. He yawned, fighting off the weariness, but the rocking of the train called to him like a siren to a sailor.
No matter the direction he looked in, Finni only saw white. The snow beat down on him as he cried out. Torrents of wind spiraled all around him, the weather mimicking his heart.
Why hadn’t anyone come? The sky was dark. Someone should have found them by now. He trembled in the cold and felt so tired. He just wanted to sleep.
But he couldn’t. Not yet.
Finni tried to call out, but his voice had given out long before the sun went down.
He clutched Gunder to him. Realization had finally sunk in, but as he sniffed, Finni knew he’d never let Gunder go. No matter what.
He should’ve kept up with him. Kept Gunder in his sights, but his brother ran so much faster than he did. His legs were so long and big compared to Finni’s scrawny ones. Someday, he’d be bigger than Gunder, though, he just knew it. Then he’d be able to outrun his brother.
When they were grown up, three years wouldn’t be that big of a difference in age.
“Hear that, Gunder?” Finni asked in a whisper, pressing his face against his brother’s. “I’m going to be bigger than you someday. Be able to run faster. So…so…so…”
He broke down, sobs torn from his chest. How did they get home? Finni just wanted Mom and Dad. He just wanted to go home with Gunder.
“Mom!” His voice barely made it out, but he had to try. “Dad! Somebody!”
Nothing. He was alone. All alone.
Mom. Dad. I don’t want to be alone.
He screamed and the wind picked up, whipped around him in a cyclone. The temperature dropped farther.
Who was that?
“Finni! Where are you boys?”
“Gr-gr-grandpa?” Guilt warred with hope. He should hide. Everyone was gonna be mad. So, so mad. They’d never like him again.
The wind’s moaning stopped. The snowflakes stirred no more. Grandpa’s huge, hulking figure appeared.
“Grandpa,” Finni cried out. The hiccups came as he tried to get it all out. “G-G-Gunder fell through the ice… I-I-couldn’t reach him. Gunder…he… I-I-tried to g-g-get us home.”
“Oh, oh. Oh, Finni,” his grandpa said quietly. Tears ran down his cheeks.
Oh no. Grandpa was mad.
“My little boy.” Grandpa wrapped his big arms around them and kissed his forehead. “My poor boys.”
Finni wailed, and the snow picked back up.
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Ah, yes. Mischief Corner is a diverse group of authors who met on a mountain in Tennessee and decided since we probably were too easily distracted to rule the world that we'd settle for causing a bit of mayhem instead.
In addition to making mayhem, we publish books with a diverse range of genres and topics... we live to break molds.
MCB. Giving voice to LGBTQ fiction.
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Publisher: Mischief Corner Books, LLC
Cover Artist: Catherine Dair
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